Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Military police shows currently seem to be in vogue. TV series such as ‘Jag’ and the ‘NCIS’ franchises explore the often murky world of army politicking and scandal. British author Lee Child has taken a leaf out of this book with his Jack Reacher novel series. Charting the exploits of a former Major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, now turned detective, his works have spun onto screens. With the public’s appetite for the genre showing no signs of slowing down, it’s a sure thing this latest Reacher film will find an audience of eager sleuths.

Often placing himself in dangerous scenarios, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) continually lives on the edge. His current case finds him in a perilous predicament. Returning to the headquarters of his old military unit to visit friend Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), Reacher is accused of murder. At the same time dealing with echoes from his past, he gradually unearths a plethora of deceit. Finding he is part of a larger conspiracy, he races to clear his name with his skills pushed to the limits as past and present collide.

Despite what one may think of his public persona, Tom Cruise knows how to star in great action films. ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is a solid thriller making full use of his talents. Fast paced, exciting and filled with interesting characters, it has the ingredients needed for a successful adventure. Reacher is a lost soul with a world weariness getting him into trouble. Discovering danger in spite of his eternal reluctance, he enters the wayward fray with gusto. Cruise inhabits the role with ease with his leading man credentials intact.

His performance is matched by Smulders and the fine cast delivering authenticity amongst the explosive incidents. It’s fascinating watching the military police move in a world outside the normal one with their own set of laws and morality. Director Edward Zwick blends these elements and excellently staged action sequences with a professionalism mirroring the film’s high quality. Whilst a few predictable moments arise, the energy and rhythm continually provide diverting viewing.

‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is filled with military lingo admirers should enjoy. With several books in the Jack Reacher series having been published, another cinematic adventure would be welcome. If this film’s strong standards are maintained, another feather should be added to Cruise’s growing movie cap.

Rating out of 10: 8

Ouija: Origin of Evil

For decades, the Ouija board has provided spooky entertainment. A board-game where the players ‘contact the dead’ has led to several strange occurrences and many horror films. ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ exploits the game’s sinister allure with wicked glee. You can take this movie as seriously as you can with the game as creaky contrivances gradually provide true terror. It’s a spooky slice of horrific mayhem sure to evoke memories of other board games lovingly played before the computer age.

In 1967, widowed mother Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) and her daughters Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson) run a fake séance scam. Using it to make a fast buck, their lives are turned upside down when discovering a Ouija board. When Doris uses it to contact her dead father, an evil spirit reaches through the board to possess her. A maelstrom of horror quickly develops with Alice enlisting the services of local priest Father Tom (Henry Thomas) to banish the supernatural interloper back to the hellish depths.

For all its predictable moments, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ is an effective chiller. It’s hard being original and its borrowing from ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Exorcist’ films is sometimes apparent. Making it work is its level of genuine conviction. Due to the very strong performances and Mike Flanagan’s astute direction, you come to care about what happens to the characters. While the outcome may not be in doubt, how everyone reaches the conclusion is well handled due to the fine small ensemble and emotional depth.

Free of the shackles of CGI pyrotechnics, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ has a pleasingly low-tech feel. The 60’s setting perfectly captures this as the story is forced to work harder in generating scares. It does with ease with the creepy atmosphere continually present. There are very little of the usual ‘jump-scares’ so prevalent in recent horror films. It’s more about the mood with the themes of handling loss and how it transforms people deftly mixed within the horror framework.

‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ effectively plays on fears of the unknown and the power of ‘the other side’. It can be taken as either scary nonsense or as an intense haunted house movie. Either way it may increase sales of the board-game with this cross-promotion surely not harming its shadowy reputation.

Rating out of 10: 7